Bound For Glory: Transfiguration Spirituality

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To listen deeply with Jesus, we must discover silence, solitude, simplicity. We must create space by making some hard choices. I hear this complaint so often, there's no answer, but you must make some hard choices. For the Word to find a deep place in us and to take root in us, we must take time to listen, to chew, to savor. When we do, we will realize that less is more. You know, it's a sign of the sickness and the non-listening, the absurdity of modern western life anyway, in that some part of us seems to know this. You know the way we sort of get a little time to listen? We get sick. It's the only time we can slow down.


Unconsciously, our bodies become sick. And so the health industry keeps growing to keep pace with our illnesses. It's the only time we can slow down and listen, it seems. A consumer society such as ours reduces everything, doesn't it? Every experience, even a religious one, into a commodity to be acquired, to add to our enormous collection of things and activity. And you know, consumerism is not just about our pocketbooks, it's an attitude of mind. It's a way of being in the world and in the church, consuming for the sake of consuming alone, with no time to feed on real life and to release its true meaning, because we have no time to chew, and no time to savor. There's simply too much on our plates, and we have very little time to eat.


So we fast-food our way through life, through daily Eucharist, through Sunday Eucharist, through everything. And then we're on our deathbeds and we say, gosh, where did it all go? You know, experts tell us that the attention span of modern Western people is decreasing. They're even telling priests, you know, seminarians now who take courses on preaching, homiletics, they're telling them now, well, you can't give a homily beyond so many minutes, because the attention span of modern Western people is getting less and less and less. Some say five minutes. Now what do I mean by that? Because we can spend three hours at the computer, can't we? What I mean is to attend to one thing. We can't give it more than five minutes. We're being trained by our fast-paced culture of illusions to attend to many things and to be stimulated by many things. Ah, I can spend hours then at my computer, because I will be stimulated by many things.


But to attend to one thing seems increasingly difficult. To listen with Jesus is to make space, make time, befriend silence and solitude. It means to speak slower. Simple thing, but consciously speak slower. It means to speak less, to listen more, to turn off a lot of the background noise that we habitually turn on, the TV, the radio, the stereo. It means to listen to God's Word hidden in the silence of our hearts. To listen deeply is to notice, and to notice is to remember. Listen to that Word in the silence of our hearts, which is telling us over and over


again, you are a river of love pouring itself out. You know, I remember when I was in another religious order for 21 years, and then I was exploring maybe transferring to a monastic order. I had been kind of, what, flirting with monastic life for many, many years, but never really could make the jump to leave. And I remember in my own deep listening, you know, I sort of thought I was being called to move to monastic life, and visited the hermitage in Big Sur, and then finally asked to be released from my ministry in my other order, and to do a two-month observership, where, you know, you try it out for two months. They look at you, you look at them. Well, you know, I was 40 years old at the time. I had had a fair amount of training in psychology, so I knew the stupid things men do at 40.


And you know, I was married to this other order, and a lot of men, what do they do? They have affairs, they have a divorce at 40. I said, I don't want to divorce my religious order because I'm going through midlife menopause or something. So I was very worried. I was seeing two spiritual directors. One of them had a degree in theology and psychology, and the other one was a Benedictine monk. So I was reading about midlife transition. I was doing all the things you're supposed to do. And so a part of me felt I should maybe make this move and explore, but I was afraid. I did not want to leave the familiar. Even though the familiar was something very good, wasn't it? I had already committed my life to God. I was already a priest. I was a religious, living in a religious community. I was training all the new candidates entering that order, very responsible job. God, what more do you want? Looks pretty good, doesn't it? So I was afraid, you know, and I wanted, can I live this contemplative life of prayer in my other order? So I go to Big Sur for my observership, and I basically kind of set up this whole thing.


I said, now God, because 40-year-old men do crazy things, you're going to have to hit me over the head. You're going to have to make it plain and obvious to me that this is what you want, that I'm not listening to my own word and doing something foolish. So you see how I set up the scenario. God now has to do a dramatic exodus sign. Well, so I'm in there and waiting for something powerful. Nothing powerful is happening. Some days I'm on a high. You know, the seesaw goes up, and I'm saying, oh, yes, I think maybe this is where I'm meant to be. And then an hour later, it switches, and oh, no, [...] I don't know. This is too difficult. You know, when I began there, I had to begin like every beginner, washing pots and pans. And then all the voices of what people and my parents said to me, what are you doing washing pots and pans there? You know, you have all this gift, all this pastoral experience and education. Where do you want to go and become a monk? See, my family didn't even know what a monk was. My dad said, well, I could understand if you had a handicap. I guess he thought all the monks were kind of walking around and had trouble speaking.


I said, dad, there's guys with doctoral degrees and authors. I said, what's your... So anyway, I'm kind of angry at God because God is not... and the weeks are going by. After three weeks before the two months are over, I want to leave. I'm really in inner agitation. I want to leave because God... I said, I'm wasting my time. I gave it six weeks. Thank you very much, God. Now I can return. See, I was really afraid that I might be called to monastic life. More afraid than I realized. But then I talked myself out of it. And then at one point I thought God was saying to me, why are you demanding a sign? Why can't you just relax? Be here like it's an extended retreat. Let happen what happened. Then you can go home and ponder it and see. Just trust me. I had the hardest time. I wanted to force God's hand. Finally, the end of the two months, and there was no sign that I recognized. That I heard. No word. So I... Normally you would leave and think about it for a while, then let them know.


But even before I left, I said, well, I don't think I'm coming back. Thank you very much. But I'll let you know. And I remember driving on that winding road going down the hill saying, you know, this feeling of shaking the dust from my sandals. You had your chance. You had two months. And you didn't speak your word to me. So there. Leave me alone. I'm sick of this monastic bug. I drive down the hill and I went and stayed with a family in Southern California that I was very close to. The second night, I broke out in a horrible case of hives. I've never had hives in my life. If you know any bit of psychology, hives are classic psychosomatic symptoms. Classic. Because they rise from the skin. They're literally a message being written on your body. And of course I knew that. I said, oh my God. A sign is coming. And I got an inkling that God was saying something when I was in the emergency room


of the local hospital. And they were giving me an injection to make sure my esophagus didn't swell because I had these huge welts all over. This was at 11 o'clock at night. And I said, maybe the word God is saying is, this is an emergency. Is this sign enough for you, John? Of course, I didn't plan on that sign. You see, I wanted a sign in a certain way. One that I could handle. This is a bit embarrassing. Five days later, the son of that family is driving me back to Big Sur and I can't believe it. And he says, so? Why are you going back? I said, damn if I know. I said, something's dragging me back. But you know, my struggle to listen. That's what I'm saying. Developing, cultivating this deep listening doesn't mean you're just going to suddenly get quick answers to your problems. We try to listen to the truth that's deep within us, we're going to hear a lot of other stuff.


A lot of other static. And that sometimes frightens people from cultivating depth in their life. From spending, creating pockets of quiet and solitude. Because they're afraid of what other things they're going to hear. And so we have to learn how to deal with these other voices within us. And how to sort through them. And not to be too frightened by them. And to let go and let God speak how and when God wants to speak to us. It's interesting, the author... Wow. The last talk and I'm in overtime. But I've got to finish this. Yeah. Interesting. And it's about listening. Too many words. God is saying, I'm going to show you. The author to the Hebrews tells us something very interesting. I always was puzzled by it. Maybe you were. It says, Jesus learned obedience. He learned to listen by what he suffered. How does that teach you to listen? You will first have to look at what is suffering?


What does suffering do in a person's life? And I think what the author of Hebrews is saying is, suffering strips us naked, doesn't it? It reveals to us that we are indeed frail people. Frail creatures. Imperfect. Dependent on others. Dependent on God. And that our lives are going to end. Suffering teaches us that we are not God. Or at least not the God that we think God is. In absolute control. Suffering teaches us that, like words, we come from and are returning to silence. A silence that is always the horizon of our life. A silence that few of us know very well. Suffering teaches us that we don't create our lives, or our own truth, or even the meaning of our lives. No, suffering teaches us that all we can do is receive.


Receive our life. Receive our truth. Receive our meaning and purpose from another, who is God. Our real life we receive as a gift from God. Moment by moment. And you know, what deep listening is, is receiving. That's what it means. To deeply listen is to be a receiver. And to have a listening life means you're always listening. Every moment, which means you're always receiving. You're always receiving who you are. All that is not love in us is already passing. I think that's one of the things we hear deep within us. All that is not love in us is already passing. And you know, when we listen deeply enough, we find out that even God is not in control of the universe,


or of our lives. That if God is a river of love pouring itself out, God doesn't create through control. God creates through what? Letting go. God creates by giving birth. And as we all know, the best births are the births where you learn to let go. To really give birth, you have to let go. And that's how God creates. Giving birth, pouring out, letting go, letting be, while remaining in communion with. That's what a deep listening life teaches us. And to listen deeply with Jesus is to awaken to this truth every day. And one of the important ways or tools that can help us is scripture. There's two things I would suggest. Scripture in terms of a method we call Lectio Divina.


One of my tape series is on that. Which is a quiet, prayerful approach to listening through the text. That's the main practice of the order that I belong to, the Benedictine order, is Lectio Divina. And then a second important practice to develop this listening life is to have some form of quiet meditation. You know, like the five minutes we do in the beginning and the end. To have some regular practice that way to teach us to listen. As Jesus says, as the one who listens to my words and my words become a part of them, then the Father and I will come to that person and we will make our home within them. So I'm going to stop here. Let us have a few moments of silence. Thank you.


Thank you. Jesus, Son of God, mercy. Jesus, Son of God, mercy. Jesus, Son of God, be my peace. Jesus, Son of God, be my peace. Jesus, Son of God, silence me. Jesus, Son of God, silence me.


Jesus, Son of God, give me space. Jesus, Son of God, give me space. Jesus, Son of God, give me time. Jesus, Son of God, give me time. Jesus, Son of God, glory. Jesus, Son of God, glory in me. Glory, river.


God bless you all. Thank you.